Prosecutors Not Just Targeting Demjanjuk Germany Has Sights on Several Alleged Nazi War Criminals
John Demjanjuk is not an isolated case. German investigators have set their sights on other presumed Nazi war criminals, raising the question of how the law should deal with the aged accessories of the Holocaust.
When he had completed the job, SS Colonel Karl Jäger, filled with pride, wrote in his report to his superiors: "Today, I am proud to report that the objective of solving the Jewish problem for Lithuania has been achieved by Task Force 3. There are no longer any Jews in Lithuania ..."
War crimes suspect John ("Ivan") Demjanjuk is expected to be extradited from the United States to Germany for trial imminently.
But Jäger did not claim all the credit for himself and the 120 men he commanded. He was only able to achieve his goal, the ardent Hitler supporter wrote, because one of his subordinates had managed to "secure the cooperation of the Lithuanian partisans."
The "partisans" Jäger referred to were anti-communist militia units that had once fought against the Soviet occupation and had now become the willing helpers of their new, German masters. One such incident of voluntary collaboration took place on August 15 and 16, 1941, in Rokiskis, a town in northeastern Lithuania, where 80 Lithuanians rounded up Jews, brought them to an execution site and helped lock up the victims. Twenty of the Lithuanian volunteers joined Jäger's men in shooting them dead.
Rokiskis was only one of many such places. The Holocaust was a crime ordered and committed by Germans, but without the help of Lithuanians, Latvians, Ukrainians, ethnic Germans living in Eastern Europe (known as "Volksdeutsche") and other Eastern Europeans, the death toll would not have been as high. Historians estimate the number of non-German "killing workers" (a term coined by German writer Ralph Giordano) at about 200,000. There is probably no other group of criminals that has proven more difficult to prosecute than the Nazis' non-German helpers and accomplices. Until today, that is.
Under these circumstances, it comes as no surprise that it has taken German prosecutors so long to turn their attention to these suspects. In mid-March, a court in Munich issued a warrant for the arrest of John ("Ivan") Demjanjuk, an 89-year-old Ukrainian-American living in Cleveland, Ohio, who is accused of being an accessory to at least 29,000 murders. Demjanjuk is believed to have worked as a guard at the Sobibor extermination camp. A US court temporarily blocked Demjanjuk's deportation, arguing that he is too frail to travel and stand trial in Germany. But German authorities expect him to be flown to Germany shortly after a US immigration appeals board ruled that he could be deported.
The Central Office for the Prosecution of National Socialist Crimes (ZSTL) in Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart, already has its sights set on four other men who may have committed murder or been accessories to murder on behalf of the Germans, and who, like Demjanjuk, subsequently emigrated to the United States.
The Americans recently deported suspect Josias Kumpf to Austria.
It is hard to imagine that this would not suffice as evidence for issuing a German arrest warrant. Kalymon's appeal against the revocation of his US citizenship was denied last fall, and the Americans would be able to place him on a flight to Germany immediately. In the other three cases, German authorities are still at the start of their investigations.
Johann Breyer, 83, was born in Slovakia and lives in Philadelphia today. The son of a Volksdeutsche man and an American woman has admitted that he worked as a guard at the Buchenwald and Auschwitz concentration camps.
A few weeks ago, the Americans deported Josias Kumpf, now 83, to Austria, from where he had emigrated to the United States. Kumpf was present when, in November 1943, the SS shot about 8,000 Jewish inmates in the space of a few days at the Trawniki concentration camp near the southeastern Polish city of Lublin. Kumpf claims, however, that his job was merely to search for survivors in the corpse pits, and that others were responsible for the murders.
Lithuanian Algimantas Dailide, 87, already lives within the jurisdiction of German courts, namely in Kirchberg, a town in the eastern state of Saxony. During World War II, Dailide, as a member of the Lithuanian secret police, handed over Jews who had attempted to escape from the Vilnius ghetto to the Nazis, and they were subsequently murdered. At the end of the war, Dailide went into hiding in Germany, where he married a woman from the eastern state of Thuringia. In 1950, the couple emigrated to the United States and, like Demjanjuk, settled in Cleveland.
In 2001, faced with the threat of deportation from the United States, Dailide went to Europe voluntarily. A Lithuanian court sentenced him to five years in prison, but suspended his sentence due to his supposedly poor health. Now the Ludwigsburg prosecutors are examine whether they have a case against Dailide.
- Part 1: Germany Has Sights on Several Alleged Nazi War Criminals
- Part 2: Failures of the German Judiciary